From the ancient era, there were small countries all over Japan, and each domain had fought against each other. Through those unstable periods, the style of the Japanese castle had been developed and established, which is proud of its graceful appearance and strong defense. It’s told that the typical style of Japanese castle was established around the 14th century and that thirty-thousands or more castles were standing all over Japan in the peak. However, most of them were gone due to the internal wars, natural disasters, fires, and the orders to demolish of castles in each domain issued by the central government. Now only twelve castles were left with original castle towers, which have kept their features for hundreds of years. Also, in entire Japan, there are many rebuilt castles ‘around 200) and you will find the list of must-visit major castles in the below.
Existing 12 Castles
Hirosaki Castle (North Tohoku)
Situated in Aomori, North Tohoku Region, this relatively small castle with roofs covered with copper plates that are strong against severe cold weather. Japan's top cherry blossom site, where you can see full-blooming 2,600 cherry blossom trees with castles and rivers, lighted up in night time, at the beginning of May.
Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto, Chubu)
The black-colored castle is proud of the quaint atmosphere surrounded by moats, vermilion bridges, and seasonal natures. It's known for durable protection design such as windows for rifles and arrows. Considered as the oldest castle, along with Inuyama castle.
3. Maruoka Castle (Chubu)
This ancient castle was told to be the oldest one out of twelves, but recently turned out it was not, but constructed in the 1600s. Only the castle tower on the stone wall remains.
4. Inuyama Castle (Inuyama, Chubu)
This beautiful castle with cherry trees and the river was possessed by the personal until recently. The traditional castle town on the foot of it worth visiting as well.
5. Hikone Castle (Chubu)
The powerful and massive castle still preserves multiple historical architectures since the Edo period. Hikone was planned to be attacked on Aug15 during the wold war, but it was canceled due to Japan's surrender, and Hikone Castle still stands thanks for that. Registered with national treasures.
6. Himeji Castle (Himeji, Kansai)
The most popular Japanese castle is renowned for the spectacular appearance of white-colored successive castle towers. Registered with both world heritage and national treasures, that is applicable only for Himeji Castle.
15. Meiji Seimeikan明治生命館
(秋葉原) The chaotic city is well known as the epicenter of Japanese pop-culture and electronics, which is the must-visit area for who loves those. In the buildings decorated with colorful signs, there are many stores and services related to anime, manga, games, various hobbies, costumes, Japanese idols, and other subcultural stuff. You would find the rare items which are available only here in Japan, even in the world, and also 2nd-hand electronics market is developed here so you can buy high-value items. It’s good to look for your favorites and to purchase souvenirs here. Also, there are special-type cafes and restaurants available such as maid cafe, cat cafe, etc. which make you enjoy another aspect of Japan.
(鎌倉) Kamakura is the ancient city reachable from Tokyo in one hour via train. Represented by the great Buddha statue with 13m in height, there are still many beautiful historic sites and temples in the city. Also, the entire town is abundant with nature and walking through hiking courses stopping by historic sites is an excellent way to feel the goodness of Japan. The center of the city has a prosperous shopping street where travelers can eat tasty meals and purchase traditional items for a souvenir. Kamakura used to be the capital of Japan, during years from 1192 to 1333, when Minamoto-no-Yoritomo and Hojō clan founded and governed Kamakura Shogunate. After that, a capital function moved back to Kyoto, but as of today still, many historical assets remain as they were. The best season is from spring to early summer when you can enjoy blooming flowers in temple grounds.
1. Hasedera Temple長谷寺
Dating from 736, Hasedera Temple is well known for the largest class of wooden Kannon statue, beautiful seasonal flowers, and historical temple architectures. Especially, full-blooming hydrangea in the early summer and autumn leaves are favorite of travelers (be prepared for crowds in those seasons). It locates in a higher place, so the view from the top of the temple is awesome.
2. Great Buddha Kotokuin Kamakura Daibutsu 高徳院鎌倉大仏
This Great Buddha with 13m in height is the symbol of Kamakura and a must-see site. Daibutsu completed in 1243 and it has kept its original feature since then, but its detailed history and the reason for the foundation are not clear even as of today. You can enter inside of Buddha.
3. Tsurugaoka Hachimangū 鶴岡八幡宮
One of three greatest Hachimangū of 44,000 Hachimangū shrines over entire Japan, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is a representative shrine of Kamakura, enshrining the god of victory and protection for samurai in Kamakura. The highlights are magnificent scenery of large stone stairs and grand vermilion-colored buildings with the background of a mountain. Dating from 1063, most of the original shrine buildings were lost and rebuilt due to the wars, and current ‘Hongu’ main building was the one restored in 1828. Maybe you can find a traditional wedding ceremony by chance.
4. Hōkokuji Temple 報国寺
Hōkokuji Temple is famous for the spectacular scenery of a garden with 2,000 bamboos. Because of its popularity, it’s recommended to visit here in the early morning for feeling a quiet and imaginary atmosphere when a few people are there. Matcha tea and a snack are served for some costs.